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Merchant of Venice ACT 5 question answers


Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

Extract I


In such a night
Did Thisbe fearfully o'ertip the dew,
And saw the lion's shadow ere himself,
And ran dismay'd away.


In such a night 
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand
Upon the wild sea-banks, and waft her love
To come again to Carthage.

i) Which topic is being discussed in the extract?

Ans: Lorenzo and Jessica discussing about famous mythological and legendary lovers, and make statements about the night.

ii) Who is Thisbe? What is meant by "fearfully o'etrip the dew"?

Ans: Thisbe was a beautiful maiden of Babylonia who was in love with Pyramus, who also belonged to the same place. The words ‘fearfully o’ertrip the dew’ means that Thisbe, with a heart throbbing with fear, came daintly, stepping over the dewy grass.

iii) Give briefly the story of Thisbe.

Ans: Thisbe was a Babylonian maiden who loved Pyramus. They were forbidden by their parents to wed. Once, Thisbe went to meet Pyramus. She arrived first, but upon seeing a lion with its mouth bloody from a recent kill, she fled out of fear, leaving behind her cloak. By chance, the lion rolled on the cloak. When Pyramus arrived, he was horrified at the sight to Thisbe's clock stained with blood. He assumed that the fierce beast had killed her. Pyramus killed himself. Thisbe returned after some time but she found her lover's dead body. So, she too killed herself.

iv) Who is Dido? Why is she standing with a willow in her hand?  What do the "Willow" and then"wild sea-banks" signify?

Ans:  Dido was the queen of Carthage and the foundress of the city. After the Trojan War, the ship of Aeneas, a Trojan prince came to Carthage and was entertained by Dido. She fell in love with him. But the gods wanted Aeneas to go to Italy. Aeneas cruelly deserted her and set sail secretly at night. Dido heartbroken, lit a funeral fire and died in its flames. Her anxious wait for Aeneas is symbolized by her standing with a willow in hand.
Willow and the wild sea banks are emblems of forsaken love. Queen Dido stood on the wild sea shore, carrying in her hand a willow- wand, the emblem of forsaken love, waving to her lover Aeneas in the ship, vainly appealing to him to return to her.

 v) Why the stories of Thisbe and Dido given the context? In your answer, bring out the comparison aimed at, between the characters in the play and the stories of Thisbe as well as of Dido.

Ans: The stories of Thisbe and Dido are given in the context of heightening the theme of love. While Thisbe’s story tells of faithful lovers, Dido’s story speaks of forsaken love. Jessica refers to Thisbe’s story and refers to her faithful love for Lorenzo. Dido’s story is narrated by Lorenzo to taunt her at the fate of Dido. The constancy of the love of Lorenzo and Jessica is highlighted in the scene.

Extract 2


In such a night
Did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew
And with an unthrift love did run from Venice,
As far as Belmont.


In such a night
Did young Lorenzo swear he loved her well,
Stealing her soul with many vows of faith,
And ne,er a true. one.

i) What did Jessica steal from a wealthy Jew in such a night?

Ans: Jessica stole money and jewels from the wealthy Jew.

ii) What precautions were taken by Jessica and Lorenzo to ensure that he could escape from her father's house undetected?

Ans: Jessica and Lorenzo took all precautions to ensure that she could escape from her father’s house undetected. Lorenzo dressed in costumes and wearing a mask came to take Jessica as a part of a masquerade. Jessica dressed herself as a boy and they eloped in a moon-lit night when Shylock was away at Bassanio’s house for dinner. 

iii) How did Jessica's father react to her escape? What were Jessica's feelings just before her elopement?

Ans: Jessica’s father reacted violently at Jessica’s escape. He was angry at his daughter for eloping with a Christian and taking away with her, his money and jewels. He wished to see her dead and lying in a coffin with his ducats and jewels in it.
Just before her elopement Jessica feels ashamed of herself for her masculine disguise and for stealing her father’s money and jewelry.

iv) What was the role played by Lorenzo in Jessica's escape from Jew?

Ans: Lorenzo saw the masquerade, he and his friends have planned as an opportunity for eloping with Jessica. He decided that Jessica disguised as a page would be his torch-bearer in the masque. When Jessica felt embarrassed in a page-boy’s dress, he satisfied her by saying that she looked charming even in the disguise of a boy and finally took her with him.

v) What do Venice and Belmont stand for? What does the elopement of Lorenzo and Jessica from Venice to Belmont signify?

Ans: Venice stands for a busy life, full of problems, businesses, and hardships while Belmont stands for peace, love, and tranquility. Elopement of Lorenzo and Jessica from Venice to Belmont means they have freed themselves from the destructive facts of life at Venice and have come to Belmont, where there is peace and tranquility and that nurtures their love.

Extract 3


Stephano is my name; and I bring word
My mistress will before the break of day
Be here at Belmont: she doth stray about
Be holy crosses, where she kneels and prays
For happy wedlock hours.

Lorenzo. who comes with her?

i) Where does this scene take the palace? Who is Stephano? What message does he bring?

Ans: The given scene takes place in the garden in front of Portia’s house in Belmont. Stephano is a servant of Portia. He brings the message that Lady Portia will arrive at Belmont before daybreak.

ii) According to Stephano, what has his mistress been doing during her absence from home?

Ans: According to Stephano, during her absence from home his mistress was visiting the roadside shrines with holy crosses. She knelt and offered prayers at these holy places for blessings in her wedded life.

iii) In reality, what has she been doing during her absence? Who accompanied the mistress?

Ans: In reality, during her absence from home she went to Venice disguised as a Doctor of Law, and successfully argued for Antonio in his bond-forfeiture case and saved him from the evil designs of Shylock. Nerissa accompanied her mistress as the lawyer’s clerk.

iv) What role did Portia's maid play in the company of her mistress?

Ans: In the company of her mistress, Portia’s maid, Nerissa played the role of a lawyer’s clerk. Once the deed document was made, Portia’s maid went to Shylock’s house for his signature on the document.

v) Explain how Jessica-Lorenzo romance is linked to the love story of Portia and Bassanio.

Ans: Jessica-Lorenzo romance is linked to the love story of Portia and Bassanio. Lorenzo is Bassanio’s friend and well-wisher. Jessica is Shylock’s daughter who finds life at her home hell. Bassanio’s dinner party provides Jessica and Lorenzo an opportunity to elope. They elope to Belmont and stay at Portia’s mansion during her absence.

Extract 5

   ...... therefore the poet 
Did feign dad Orpheus drew trees, stones, and floods;
Since naught so stockish, hard at full of rage.
But music for the time doth change the nature.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Is fit for treasons, strtatahems, and spoils:
The motion of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affection dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

1.  Who was Orpheus? What effect did the music played by orpheus have on objects in nature?

Ans: Orpheus was the son of the Muse Calliope. He was a famous poet of Thrace. He was presented with a lyre by Apollo and instructed by muses in its use. He enchanted with its music not only the wild beasts but also the trees and rocks upon Olympus. It is said that he made trees, stones and streams move from place to place by the power of his music.

2. Give the meaning of:

a) Stratagems:

Ans: a) stratagems : intrigues 
(b) spoils : destruction 
(c) motion : movements

3. What has Lorenzo said earlier about the effect of trumpet sound on wild colts?

Ans: Earlier Lorenzo had said that at the sound of the trumpet, wild unbroken horses, rushing madly over the plains with energy come to a standstill. They remain quiet, listen and gaze calmly.

4. What does Lorenzo say-about the man who has no sense of music?

Ans: Lorenzo says that the man, who has no sense of music is capable of treachery, intrigue, and dishonesty. His spirit has no spark of brighter feelings and he is lifeless like the world sleeping at night. His emotions are sordid and as dark as hell. Such a man can never be trusted.

5. What is referred to as Erebus? Why is it used in the extract?

Ans: Erebus was the son of Chaos. His name signifies darkness. In classical mythology, it was considered also as the home of the dead, an area of darkness near hell. Departed souls had to walk through this area during their passage to Hades. Lorenzo says that a man, who does not love music, has thoughts as dark as night and emotions as dark as hell.

Extract 6

About a hoop of gold, a paltry ring
The she didi give me, whose posy was
For all the world like cutler's poetry
Upon a knife, 'Love me, and leave me not.'


What talk you of the posy, or the value?
You swore to me, when I did give it you,
That you would wear it till your hour of death,
And that it should lie with you in your grave:

(i). What is meant by 'a hoop of gold' and 'a paltry ring'?

Ans: ‘A hoop of gold’ means a circle of gold. ‘A paltry ring’ means a ring of small value.

(ii) About which ring are the speakers talking? What information does Bassanio give to describe the ring?

Ans: The speakers are talking about the ring Nerissa had given to Lorenzo at the time of their marriage. *Gratiano describes the ring as a circlet of gold, a mere worthless ring, with a rhyming inscription on it, such as the manufacturers of knives engrave on their blades: ‘Love me and leave me not’.

*Corrigendum: In question 6 (ii) instead of Bassanio read Gratiano and the question as — What information does Gratiano give to describe the ring?

(iii) What promise was made by Gratiano when he had got the ring from Nerissa? To whom did he give the ring?

Ans: When he had got the ring from Nerissa, Gratiano had vowed that he would never part with it during life and that after death it would be buried in the grave with him. He gave the ring to the lawyer’s clerk.

(iv) State where the ring is at present? In what way is the ring, the cause for the quarrel between Gratiano and Nerissa?

Ans: The ring is with Nerissa. The ring is the cause of the quarrel between Gratiano and Nerissa as Gratiano is not aware that Nerissa herself was the lawyer’s clerk, whom he gave the ring. She accuses Gratiano of having given the ring to a woman and not to the young clerk.

(v) How is the Ring episode linked with the theme of love and loyalty? How can you conclude from the extract that Nerissa was very angry with Gratiano?

Ans: The ring episode is linked to the theme of love and loyalty. Portia and Nerissa had given their husbands rings at the time of their marriage which their husbands promised never to part with. The ring episode gives them a fresh chance to further renew their vows of love and loyalty. From this extract, we can conclude that Nerissa was very angry with Gratiano. She feels that Gratiano easily parted with the ring. She felt that even if he did not care to keep it for her sake, he should have kept it for the sake of not breaking his earnest vow not to part with the ring during his life.

Extract 7

If you had known the virtue of the ring,
Or half her worthiness that give the ring,
Or you own honor to contain the ring,
You would not then have parted with the ring.
What man is there so much unreasonable,
If you had pleased to have defended it
With any term of zeal, wanted the modesty
To urge the thing held as a ceremony?
Nerissa teaches me what to believe:
I'll die for't, but some woman had the ring. 

(i) About which ring is Portia speaking?

Ans: Portia is speaking about the ring she had given to Bassanio at the time of their marriage.

(ii) When was the ring given away and by whom? What arguments does Portia give to show that Bassanio should not have given away the ring?

Ans: Bassanio had given away the ring to the lawyer who saved Antonio from Shylock’s clutches and would accept no other gift except the ring. Portia says that if Bassanio knew the special qualities of the ring, if he knew half the virtues of the woman who gave it to him and if he had considered how he was honor bound to keep it as he had vowed, Bassanio would not have given away the ring.

(iii) Explain how reluctantly Bassanio gave away his wife's ring? What compelled him to part with the ring?

Ans: Bassanio gave away the ring very reluctantly when the lawyer insisted on having the ring as a gift. Initially, Bassanio said that it was of not much value and would give him the best ring available in Venice. Later he revealed that it was his wife’s gift and had promised her never to part with it. After the exit of the lawyer, upon Antonio’s advice, he finally parted with the ring.

(iv) What did Bassanio offer instead of the ring?

Ans: Instead of the ring, Bassanio offered to give the lawyer the most valuable ring in Venice as a present.

(v) Who else in the play had given away the ring? What reason did that person give for doing so?

Ans: Gratiano too had given away his ring. He had given the ring to the lawyer’s clerk. The lawyer’s clerk insisted on getting the ring as a gift for his services in saving Antonio from the clutches of Shylock. The clerk’s insistence on having the ring made Gratiano to part with it.

Extract 8


Sweet lady, you have given me the life and living;
For here I read for certain that my ships
Are safely come to road.


How now, Lorenoz!
My clerk hath some good comforts too for you.


Ay, and I'll give them him without a fee.
There do I give to you and Jessica,
From the rich Jew, a special deed of gift,
After his death, of all he dies possess'd of.


Fair ladies, you drop manna in the way
Of starved people.

(i) How has the sweet lady given Antonio life and living?

Ans: Portia has saved the life of Antonio in the trial in which Shylock insisted on having the pound of Antonio’s flesh as a penalty for forfeiture of the bond. By arguing that no drop of blood should be shed nor any excess or less of flesh, to be cut off but only a pound of flesh is to be cut, Portia cornered Shylock and saved Antonio’s life. Through the deed of gift she gave half of Shylock’s wealth to Antonio. Besides, she gave him the news of the safe arrival of three of his ships. Thus, Portia gave him a new life and the means of living.

(ii) What is 'a special deed of gift'? Give its contents. Explain the implication of 'without a fee' in the sixth line of the extract.

Ans: ‘Special deed of gift’ is the gift document drafted by Portia and signed by Shylock. The deed of gift mentions that Shylock’s property and wealth would be gifted to Lorenzo and Jessica after Shylock’s death. ‘Without a fee’ means freely without any special charges for the service.

(iii) On whose request was the deed made? On what condition was the deed made?

Ans: The deed was made at Antonio’s request. The deed was made on the condition that Shylock’s wealth will be given to Lorenzo and Jessica after his death and Shylock will become a Christian.

(iv) How does the ring episode create an atmosphere of comedy as well as joy?

Ans: The ring-episode creates an atmosphere of comedy as well as joy. The comedy develops in the embarrassment of the husbands as they try to account for the loss of their wedding rings. The arguments and counter-arguments among the couples provide amusement to the audience. Finally, the three pairs of lovers reunite. Antonio’s ships return safely and the play ends happily with the triumph of loyalty, romance, and the defeat of greed and hatred.

(v) What is meant by 'manna'? What manna was dropped in the context? Who are the starved people?

Ans: In the Old Testament of the Bible, the Jews are described as wandering in the desert on their way from Egypt to the promised land. When they were starving, God sent them divine food called ‘manna’ miraculously from heaven to feed them. This happened in answer to Moses’ prayer to God. In this context, the gift deed was the manna. Lorenzo means that just as the heavenly manna was welcome to the Jews so is this happy news of the deed signed by Shylock welcome to Lorenzo, Jessica, and Antonio.

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